Over the past decade, the debate between next-gen gaming PCs and consoles has reignited as the latest offerings from Sony and Microsoft consolidate high-end hardware that can play many of the same games you’d find on a premium gaming console -PC would find.
Both the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S have almost the same AMD CPU/GPU combo with only minor performance changes. It also doesn’t hurt that Microsoft’s current ecosystem supports games on both PC and Xbox Series consoles, further blurring the line between consoles and PCs. Simply put, gaming is more accessible than ever.
It makes sense given mobile gaming’s near 50 percent market dominance and the slow rise of video game streaming. Consoles account for around 30 percent of the games industry’s market share, while PC games eat up around 25 percent according to a recent analysis. Though the line between gaming on a PS5, Xbox Series X|S, or best gaming PC is becoming less relevant, gamers are choosing sides for legitimate reasons.
Making that decision is harder now that the world is in front of you chip shortage that will expected to last until 2024but potential buyers, given the opportunity to make a choice, should consider a few things when considering upgrading or moving to a new platform.
Gaming PCs vs Next-Gen Consoles: Hardware Costs
The first thing individuals should consider is the entrance fee. Consoles are generally less expensive than even the best budget gaming PCs and come with everything you need to get started. Sony’s PS5 comes in two versions: the standard disc version for $499 and the digital-only version for $399.
On the Xbox Series X | S variants, Microsoft handles things a little differently. Priced at $499, the Xbox Series X offers specs more comparable to the PS5, while the Series S is less powerful in terms of performance and doesn’t have a disc drive. The chip shortage has created a secondary market that puts these consoles at a premium, often well over 50 percent above MSRP. Even with the exorbitant prices being asked by eBay profiteers, these consoles are still something cheaper than building a similarly equipped gaming PC.
Building a PC with next-gen features like the best processors, the best graphics cards, and the best SSDs is going to cost a lot. And that’s not even taking into account all the other extra hardware like a gaming mouse and gaming headset that you’ll probably want to get your hands on.
When building a gaming PC rig, the AMD Zen 2 CPU included in both next-gen consoles costs around $300 alone, while the AMD RDNA 2-based GPU starts at almost $500. PC gaming has also been hit by chip shortages and price gouging, so component prices are still very high, and that’s not even factoring in the price of the case, power supply, cooling, and Windows 11 license.
Those who go the prepackaged route will likely fare better, but anything even remotely close to the capabilities of next-gen consoles will still cost significantly more than a console (assuming you can find one).
Gaming PCs vs Next-Gen Consoles: Capabilities
As much as we’d love to see a gaming MacBook or iMac from Apple these days, gaming PCs are a Windows-only affair, and the operating system can handle a lot of non-gaming tasks.
Your next-gen console won’t run robust photo and video editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere, and anyone who’s tried using a console’s virtual keyboard to enter a password understands that word processing or working with spreadsheets is out the question. Even additional game features like modding and streaming are much better on PC.
However, build or buy a custom built gaming PC is a more personal experience. Making a rig also depends on what games you want to play. A rig meant for competitive Fortnite or Rocket League play will be different (and cheaper) than putting one together to play Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K with max settings and ray tracing. Note that the variety of PC builds means that games are typically less optimized and can be tedious to troubleshoot.
Consoles are made for a single purpose, so buyers should already have an idea of what they’re getting into. Game developers also know very early on what specific hardware will be included in the consoles, allowing them to optimize their games to those exact specs, allowing more advanced AAA titles to run on weaker hardware than a PC.
There are now some differences in what PS5 and Xbox Series X can do. Sony’s next-gen console features the already popular DualSense controller, making gaming a little more immersive. On the other hand, the Xbox Series X is backwards compatible, going back to the games released on the original Xbox.
There are also some other nuances like like Sony takes care of the memory expansion in Comparison to Microsoft. Though Microsoft is pulling away from VR, PC and Sony have thoroughly embraced it. PC gamers have a nice selection of headsets to choose from, while Sony plans to offer its next-gen PS VR headset sooner rather than later.
Gaming PCs vs. Next-Gen Consoles: Exclusives
More of a traditionalist in the gaming industry, Sony’s Tentpole AAA exclusives can only be played on its consoles – although this is where Sony dips its toe in the water. Until Sony dives deeper into PC portsthe only way to play games like return and Ratchet & Clank Rift apart is on a PS5.
Microsoft’s approach is to make itself more of an ecosystem that blurs the line between PC, console and its video game streaming technology. Through the Windows manufacturer’s Play Anywhere initiative, subscribers to its Game Pass Ultimate service can play their exclusive first-party games on other platforms.
The game library for PCs is significantly larger than on consoles. With online stores from EA, Epic Games, Rockstar, GOG and reigning champion Steam, a PC’s gaming catalog is second to none. What Sony and Microsoft offer can’t even come close.
However, the age of AAA PC exclusives is pretty much a thing of the past as console hardware has risen to almost the level of a modern gaming PC. Also, with so many people owning consoles, there’s a far greater incentive for developers to target their games for consoles rather than PC.
There is some Exclusive to PC, like League of Legends and Guild Wars 2. Widely regarded as the current benchmark for VR experiences, Half Life: Alyxx can only be played with a VR headset on PC, but the days of getting a PC-exclusive title like the original Half-Life are probably long gone.
Gaming PCs vs Next-Gen Consoles: Game Prices
With advances in technology and visual fidelity, games are generally becoming more expensive to produce. Now, the typical AAA title sells for around $70, a $10 jump from the previous generation’s games.
Sony and Microsoft have also taken different approaches to how gamers can access their content. Subscribers to Sony’s soon-to-be tiered PlayStation Plus service have at least two free games a month. Microsoft’s Gamepass program has been billed as the Netflix of games, with a set monthly subscription price and access to newly released first-party titles alongside rotating third-party developed games. Both services also offer discount prices for game purchases to subscribers of their individual services, and they will often host sales events as well.
PC gamers have a bit more flexibility in how they want to pay for games. Most digital storefronts on PC like Steam will always have some sort of sale on games, which are usually cheaper than their console counterparts, and there are plenty more indie favorites on PC that you can get your hands on for around the price of a mug Coffee. Then there are other stores like Humble Bundle that offer special deals that can be staggeringly cheap.
However, when it comes to AAA games, there won’t be much of a difference between game prices on next-gen gaming PCs and consoles. These prices are fairly consistent and quite high, although sometimes you can still get a better deal against each other at competing storefronts or retailers, so you shouldn’t end up worrying about overpaying for games on one platform or the other.